Sometimes you think it's a good thing Labour won in 2005. I imagine had this been a Tory Home Secretary that the Labour Party would as one be denouncing the Islamophobic racists in the Home Office.
Home Secretary John Reid's attempt to connect with British Muslims was hijacked by radical protesters claiming he was an "enemy" of Islam.
Others attending a speech he gave to a 30-strong group of Muslims in Leyton, east London, were angered by calls for Muslim parents to look out for the signs of brainwashing in their children in the fight against terrorism.
Mr Reid was 10 minutes through his speech when well-known extremist Abu Izzadeen, clutching the hand of a small boy, interrupted him. The Home Secretary had just listed a number of terror attacks around the world when Izzadeen began his tirade and forced him to stop.
"How dare you come to a Muslim area when over 1,000 Muslims have been arrested?" he said. "You are an enemy of Islam and Muslims, you are a tyrant. Shame on all of us for sitting down and listening to him."
The Home Secretary stood and watched as police officers ushered him out of the room, followed by hoards of cameras, photographers and reporters. Continuing his diatribe, Izzadeen accused the Government of state terrorism and said Mr Reid, Tony Blair and George Bush with their crusade could "all go to hell".
After the furore died down, Mr Reid said: "This is not a new experience for me or for those involved in politics. There will always be people who will not be prepared to take part in a dialogue, but who will try to intimidate and shout down. They are not confined to the Muslim community."
But Mr Reid had only just re-started his speech when a second protester, radical Anjem Choudary, stood up to protest.
"Muslims do not need British values," he said. "We believe Islam is superior, we believe Islam will be implemented one day. It is very rich for you to come here and say we need to monitor our children when your Government is murdering people in Iraq and Afghanistan."
In his speech Mr Reid stressed that the terrorists were waging a "violent and indiscriminate war" and warned that communities needed to be more aware of signs of terrorist activity. He urged Muslim parents to look out for the "tell-tale signs" of radicalisation in their children.
"These fanatics are looking to groom and brainwash children, including your children, for one thing," he said. "Grooming them to kill themselves in order to murder others. Look for the tell-tale signs now and talk to them before their hatred grows and you risk losing them forever."
I'm not sure I'd have used that last argument - does Mr Reid actually think about his audience ? Just as a Christian would prefer a child to be in heaven rather than on earth but doomed to hell (believe it or not such a view would have been quite mainstream only a few generations back), so a religious Muslim parent might not consider having a martyr in the family to be 'losing them forever'. After all, they could argue, they'll meet again in paradise. Life on earth is short, and eternity a long time.
UPDATE - of course what the press reports fail to mention is that the vast majority of moderate Muslims at the meeting threw themselves on the hecklers, roughed them up, and slung them out the doors ;-)
No need to tread on eggshells
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